Mark Harris’ Thrilling Book Becomes a Thrilling Documentary in Netflix’s ‘Five Came Back’

Five Came Back

Not all of World War II was fought on the battlefield. Fighting the Nazis and imperialist Japan also consisted of a propaganda effort to help rally the nation behind the cause. The amazing true story of five Hollywood directors who abandoned their comfy lifestyle to serve their country in a concerted effort to document the struggle of World War II is the subject of the fantastic book by Mark Harris, Five Came Back. An incredibly well-researched piece of military and cinematic history, Five Came Back is a page-turner of the best kind that is enthralling and informative. Now Five Came Back has been adapted into a documentary series for Netflix. While this three-part series can’t match the depth of Harris’ book, it’s an amazing companion piece that honors the sacrifice of the five legendary directors as well as the larger national struggle to defeat the Axis powers. Like the text on which it’s based, Five Came Back is educational as well as thrilling in examining the role of cinema in World War II.

Five Came Back tells the story of the quintet of directors – Frank Capra, John Ford, George Stevens, William Wyler, and John Huston – and how they each left behind thriving careers in service of something greater. To elaborate on each director is a quintet of modern filmmakers. Steven Spielberg takes on Wyler, Guillermo Del Toro has Capra, Paul Greengrass handles Ford, Francis Ford Coppola discusses Huston, and Lawrence Kasdan discusses Stevens. Their analysis of these filmmakers is interspersed between archival interviews and footage as well as narration written by Harris and delivered by Meryl Streep. The modern directors provide context for the work of each of the filmmakers as well as biographical information while the narration by Streep tie these threads together with historical information and pertinent stories that range from the emotionally powerful to comic anecdotes. It allows Five Came Back to retain the feel of the book while standing on its own because the quintet of modern directors have their own observations about the work of each filmmaker that differs from Harris’ interpretation.

As great at Harris’ book is, there’s one thing that this documentary series does that he simply can’t do on the page – present the visuals of the movies being discussed. Whether it’s discussing the pre-war films of Capra and Ford or the wartime documentaries produced by Huston and Wyler, Five Came Back provides the visual context that a book simply cannot, adding another stunning layer to this incredible true story. One of the most thrilling chapters in the book dealt with John Ford’s filming of the Battle of Midway, and seeing the documentary footage makes Ford’s military exploits all the more incredible than they were on the page.

Five Came Back isn’t simply a piece of reverence for America’s role in the war effort. The series, directed by Laurent Bouzereau, doesn’t shy away from being critical of some of the filmmaker’s efforts as well as the racist aspects of the anti-Japanese propaganda, which took a noticeably different tone than anti-German propaganda. Some of the propaganda films these directors made were entirely staged, and it’s fascinating to watch these modern masters of filmmaking debate the ethical merits of staging events and passing them off as real. Five Came Back also gets into the segregation of the military and the constraints that the filmmakers were under when trying to make unifying propaganda that was inclusive of black Americans. This documentary series is on par with the book because it can look at the whole of America’s role in the war, from our collective triumphs to our collective shame.

This documentary series does what Harris’ book does best – work as both a history of Hollywood and military operations during World War II. It’s full of funny anecdotes, such Daryl Zanuck donning a uniform and making a documentary that extolled the virtues of Daryl Zanuck. (He was later discharged and his uniform-wearing habits were lampooned in the Coen BrothersBarton Fink.) It highlights the sacrifices that so many made to defeat the rising tide of fascism, and how the war was fought on a number of different fronts. Making a documentary informative is tricky on its own, but making it as informative as well as thrilling as Five Came Back is truly an incredible feat. This magnificent piece of documentary filmmaking should be viewed by film lovers and history buffs alike, and perhaps we can all learn something about what makes us all Americans.

Five Came Back debuts exclusively on Netflix on Friday, March 31st. In conjunction with the release of Five Came Back, Netflix will also be featuring a number of the documentaries made by these filmmakers during World War II.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Ben Wheatley and the Cast of ‘Free Fire’ Talk About the Film’s Lengthy Shootout

Put a bunch of scumbags in the same room and give...

Bill Finger Finally Recognized in ‘Batman & Bill’

For decades Bill Finger got the finger from several of his...

Unforgettable
‘Unforgettable’ Has Moments of Memorable Camp

The jilted ex-lover subgenre of thrillers endures despite the fact there...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series Now Available

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series Now Available from...

Injustice 2 Gear
Injustice 2 Gear Trailer Explains How Every Battle Defines You

Injustice 2 Gear Trailer explains the game’s sub-title and also the game’s...

Shift Happens Review
9.0/10
No Other Way to Say It, This Game is the Shift – Shift Happens Review [Xbox One]

Everyone goes through shift, but it’s always easier to handle shift...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Bring Back Memories of Prince in Full Vivid Color

They say time heals all wounds, but really you just become...

Five Things You Should Know About the Valiant Summit

The Valiant Summit came has left a huge impact on the...

9.5/10
Batman 21, The Wait is OVER!!!!

Title: Batman 21 Writer: Tom King Artist and Inker: Jason Fabok...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
EIROA The First 20 Collection has begun Shipment on the Colorado

From C.L.E. Cigar Company – April 21, 2017 (Miami, FL) –...

WWE and Loot Crate Reveal Their Latest Mystery Box and Surprise!

The Game, Triple H has revealed the next wave in the...

Evil Geniuses Special Edition
SteelSeries teams up to create Evil Geniuses Special Edition Gear

SteelSeries teams up to create Evil Geniuses special edition versions of...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Full Bellator 178: Strauss vs Pitbull 4 Weigh-In Results & Photos

UNCASVILLE, CONN. (April 20, 2017) –The official weigh-ins for Bellator 178:...

Bellator 176 and Bellator Kickboxing 5 Weigh-In Results and Photos

All Photos Credited to Bellator and Lucas Noonan. TORINO, ITALY –...

Combate Americas Adds Women’s 105-Pound Bout for the April 20 Card in Tucson, AZ

NEW YORK – April 6, 2017 – Combate Americas announced today...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity Issue Nine – Ten Inch Mutant Ninja Turtles

The porn parody has a long, hard, turgid and difficult to...

DC’s New Aqualad is ‘3-Pages of Gay’

3…2…1…Okay, now that the Social Justice Warriors who have only read...

12 Incredible Assyrian Women Around the World (Reposting)

March commemorates Women’s History Month in the United States of America,...

Event News Event Reviews
Romy and Michele Reunite on Stage

This summer something exciting will be happening… Romy And Michele’s High...

Blackheart Burlesque
Artistically Exotic and Downright Sexy – Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque

Your cosplay fantasies come to life, but way better and sexier...

Danzig’s Blackest Of The Black with Ministry, Suicidal Tendencies, Atreyu & More

This year marks the first Blackest Of The Black Destination Festival....

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Prince’s ‘Deliverance’ Reminds Us of Who We Lost

On Friday, April 21st, it will be one year since we...

As Balto Heads on Tour with their Latest Album ‘Strangers’

Balto is a quick on the trigger, Folk, Country, Blues, Gospel,...

Lebanese Englishwoman, Nadine Khouri Lulls you with ‘The Salted Air’

There is something fitting about a woman who’s last name translates...